Association Surveys for Knowledge (ASK)

Since 2018 GTF has set out to gather knowledge about and information on the challenges faced by global forest and timber trade associations. This is the first ever comprehensive programme of research targeting associations. GTF champions that associations are the most trusted and realistic mechanism to reach thousands of microenterprises and small businesses.
  • Surveys cover 41 countries.
  • 114 associations were invited to take part representing 36% of the total number of associations identified.
  • The surveyed associations represent over 52,600 member companies.
  • The surveyed associations’ member companies are estimated to employ 3.8 million workers.
  • The surveyed associations represent 28% of the global forest sector work force.
  • The surveyed associations represent 46% of the forest sector work force in the countries surveyed.
  • The surveyed associations’ member company employees are estimated to have around 15 million dependents.
  • 87% of all member companies are micro, small or medium sized businesses
  • 69% in the African associations were micro sized
  • 37% of the associations’ members are micro sized with less than 10 employees
  • 90% of association funding is from member subscriptions
  • Membership is dominated by forestry companies, primary processors and secondary manufacturers – producing logs, sawn wood and furniture
  • Less than half of members export

Challenges faced by micro enterprises and SMEs

  • Most of the associations considered lack of access to suitable raw materials as the main issue affecting their members.
  • The second most important issue concerned government policies unfavourable to micro and SME operations.

Associations main focus of work

  • Almost universally the associations’ main area of work is government liaison though many cite this as a key challenge
  • Public affairs and wider stakeholder engagement are other key activities
  • Most associations provide business services but all of them desired to do more and services provided were limited
  • Of those technical services offered – the most commonly provided focus on forest and timber legality, sustainability / certification and product technical standards.
  • 22% of associations have technical staff and on average each association has a single person providing technical support

Challenges facing the Associations in provision of services

  • The main challenges facing the associations centre around providing training on a range of topics, advising on legal compliance, providing market data or marketing opportunities and countering negative attitudes to the sector.
  • Other common challenges include the time spent on advocacy to government and the difficulties of managing an association.

Our Conclusions

  1. The forest and wood-products sector is dominated by SME & microenterprises
  2. The private sector is not one entity – solutions need to work at different scales and in different systems
  3. The private sector need their own platforms to develop solutions
  4. Building knowledge of responsible trade and the national sector is key to ensure government policies and support works for small businesses to address illegal logging, deforestation and poverty.
  5. Approaches to increasing capability of associations needs to be undertaken by ‘trusted mediums’
    • Messages & messengers are critical
    • There is an appetite to engage & collaborate
    • Associations have potential to reach 100,000’s SMEs
  6. The whole sector is unified in wanting to promote timber as the material of choice
ASK is an ongoing programme that seeks to better understand from associations the local, national and regional challenges for responsible trade, the following reports are available:



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Additional research: